Paying Cash Instead of Plastic Makes you spend less? Not for me.

I keep seeing articles advising people to pay cash for things rather than credit cards because most people spend less when that way. It annoys me a little, because it assumes everyone uses cards the same way.

For me and my family, we definitely spend less when we’re paying by plastic rather than cash.

First, let me explain how we use our cards. We pay off our balance every month. That way we don’t need to worry about interest rates. I like having the option to make a minimum payment and let the balance ride if I need to. However, we haven’t needed to do that for years.

Second, I track everything we spend with our cards. Our credit card companies categorize all our spending for us pretty well and I use Quicken to categorize it even better. I save receipts and go through them occasionally to figure out exactly what we bought and feed that into Quicken as well. So, everything we spend with plastic will eventually have to be accounted for and justified.

Third, we get a 5% discount at Target when paying with our Target card and we get a Cashback Bonus from Discover, which I roll back into paying off the accounts. This makes for a very slight discount over everything we purchase with plastic rather than cash.

Fourth, we have two people using our checking account. If we each draw money out of the ATM or use our check cards and it’s a few days before we balance the checkbook, we may risk overdrawing the account accidentally. We do have overdraft protection, but that’s a $20 or $30 fee each time we use it. You don’t have run that risk with a credit card.

Fifth, I don’t track what I spend as well when paying cash. I don’t keep receipts when I pay with cash. All I track is how much comes out of the ATM. I know when I purchase with cash I won’t have to account for where the money went, so I don’t pay too much attention to it and tend to spend more.

I understand that this is not how everyone, or even most people, handle their accounts. For many people they do spend more when using credit cards. However, this is not the case for everyone. I know it isn’t for me. It annoys me when financial experts present financial tips like this as if it is a one-size-fits-all solution. For some people, they’ll spend less when they pay by cash. For others, they spend less with plastic. It just depends on your individual spending and accounting habits.